We hear a lot of talk at the moment about “resilience”. It has become one of many buzz words in education around well being and mental health priorities.
But are we focusing on the right part of our eduction system?
There is no denying that we need to be teaching these skills to our children, but with the latest figures on teachers leaving the profession, shouldn’t we be teaching the teachers to cope with the stresses of the job as well?
Before I say any more I ought to talk a little about what we mean when we say resilience, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the term. Resilience is our ability to cope in difficult situations. It is not something anyone is born with, we all learn it through our experiences and challenges along the way.
We all need to learn tips and tricks to help us become more resilient, whoever we are.
What do we need to know about becoming more resilient?
The struggle is real
Whatever you are going through, however irrational it feels, it is real. You may know of people who are going through much worse, that doesn’t make your challenges any less important or any less real.
You are already tough
Have a good think about all the things you are coping with every single day and realise you are already pretty blummin’ resilient! Have a think about the most difficult times you have been through, you survived those didn’t you? So you can survive this!
We don’t do heads in the sand and ignoring things, because they NEVER go away. Face the fear and find a way to tackle whatever it is that is causing you to feel this way.
Call a friend
We all know who we can trust at times like this, it might be a good friend, your mum, sister, colleague… whoever it is, talk to them. If you have chosen to trust them with this chances are they are going to be pretty brilliant and helping you through it!
Take care of yourself
Whatever your favourite method of self care get it planned, booked, in the diary or just do it right now! Whether it is going to a spa, reading a book, going for a run or a nice meal with your partner. If it makes you happy make a plan and stick to it.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Generally speaking with the right strategies and support network people who have over come adversity thrive and enjoy life more than those who haven’t. The more resilient you get the better you get at coping with these set backs and soon you hardly notice the little bumps in the road any more.
With more teachers leaving the profession than entering it we need to make sure that the teachers who are committed to being awesome educators, those who are enthusiastically entering the classroom for the first time and those who are already considering walking away, learn how to cope with the pressures of the job.
We need to take the focus away from pupil resilience and start looking at teacher resilience.
What can you change today that would have a huge impact on your day?
The easiest thing to change at any given time is always your mindset.
Can you find a different way of looking at the tasks you have to complete, the challenges you have and make the day more enjoyable?
(I don’t want anyone to think I am not sympathetic to the stresses of teaching, I honestly couldn’t care more about the ridiculous demands made on teachers these days. Every day I hear stories of teachers going in during holidays for revision sessions, making themselves available for students to contact them at the weekends and evenings with questions if they are worried. It is a worrying and dangerous trend, but until we can reverse it, if you love teaching you are going to have to find an who toolbox full of tools to help you cope with these additional pressures.)
So how can you change your mindset?
Well, you can start to focus on the positives. When we train our brains to find the positives in any situation our brain rewires itself after a while and starts doing it automatically. We are naturally programmed to notice danger and negative things more than we notice the positives, it’s basic survival programming that is now totally outdated. But by teaching ourselves to look for the positives in every day we can change that.
Try starting a gratitude journal, write five things you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep. Or you could start your day by listing three things you are grateful for.
You may be thinking, I’m not grateful for anything! Are you’re about that? Do you have a roof over your head? Clean water to drink? A shower to clean you? Food for breakfast? You can start with the really basic things if it helps. But over time you will start to realise that yes there were events at school that weren’t ideal, but actually Johnny did his 7 times table for the first time and you helped him with that and Melissa finally learned to use speech marks properly and you taught her that too!
As a teacher you are changing lives every single day and you are so busy doing it that sometimes you forget what an amazing thing that is!
When people are interviewed after major achievements is it the lady who bought them sweets every week that they thank? Is it the person who bought them their computer games?
It’s always the teachers, the coaches the people who encourage and support and do amazing things every single day, but who rarely notice the impact of their behaviour because they are too busy helping the next person achieve the next goal.
Start making time to care for yourself the way you care for others
If you can only manage 5-10 mins a day, make sure you spend some time every single day doing something that you love. Reading a book, having a bath, going to a fitness class, whatever it is, make time for it! It is so important. I hear teachers every day encouraging children to have activities out side of school, but so few teachers have hobbies themselves. The ones that do are usually much happier for it!
Make small changes that will trigger a big impact.
Whatever you decide to implement start small and manageable and then allow it to grow. Once you remember how much you enjoy singing or archery or orienteering, you won’t be able to resist making it more of a priority. Make sure you are caring for yourself as well as you care for everyone around you though.
We need caring, supportive, nurturing teachers more than ever right now, but in order to keep you well enough to do the job you love and are so brilliant at, you need to make yourself a priority and make yourself as resilient as you can.